by Michelle Berger, Joni Gerken & Anna Izzo
Healthy can be deceiving, and also very confusing. What does it even mean to be healthy anymore? Does it mean you have to buy that supplement your friend mentioned, or does it mean you have to run every day, or eat zero fats?
Anna (Fitness Coach), Michelle (Yoga Instructor) and Joni (Registered Dietitian) are all here to help untangle and simplify this topic of healthy. Hopefully their perspectives will help ease your confusion on how to lead a healthy life amidst all the noise that's out there.
Pillar I: Movement
by Anna Izzo
Would you rather drink water from a stagnant murky pond or a clear flowing river? Unless you have a strange affinity for unsanitary beverages, I'd imagine you answered you'd rather drink from a clear flowing river. This is one of my favorite analogies to use in explaining the importance of daily physical activity.
When we spend the entirety of our days sitting still with little to no movement, our bodily systems become resemblant of the stagnant murky pond. Simply put, less movement means functioning less optimally.
Whereas when we take what a friend of mine likes to refer to as "movement snacks" throughout the day, we are functioning much more like the clear flowing river. Our heart pumps, our blood circulates, our lymph drains and our bodies function optimally.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise each week, and for good reason. Exercise has been proven to decrease risk and exacerbation of many diseases, however less than 25% of the nation's population is in fact meeting these recommendations. Meaning there are more of us functioning like murky ponds than flowing rivers. It might not be fun to hear, but it's our reality.
Use it or lose it isn't just a tough love saying, it's true. Whether we want to live a simple healthy life, achieve lofty fitness goals or perform at a high level of competition, a component that cannot be substituted is exercise.
That doesn't mean we have to run a marathon every single day or suffer through exercise that we really don't like (although there is something positive to be said about the things that challenge us), but it does mean we need to prioritize finding movement that we do love - better yet movement that we look forward to - and do it consistently often.
One of the best ways to create new habits - whether a newcomer to exercise or someone trying to reach new heights in their fitness journey - is to stack the new habits on top of old habits that we already have established (i.e. when you drive home from work - something you already do every day - pack a bag and pull into the gym and get in a workout before going all the way home). The easier we make the beginning of a new habit, the more likely we are to carry through on it.
So stop and think for a second? What movement do you enjoy? How can you stack it on top of something you already do? If you're already fairly active, how can you change up your regimen to reach your goals?
As always, our fitness coaches are here for you and are always more than willing to help you find ways to stay active, move better and feel your absolute best. No matter where you're trying to go, the best place to start is exactly where you are.
Pillar II: Nutrition
by Joni Gerken
Whether you consider yourself an athlete or simply an active individual, nutrition plays a key role in performance and overall health.
Increased activity burns more calories, allowing you to eat more without adding the pounds, but nutrient needs also increase with activity. It is important to make sure that your food choices are nutrient rich and not just high in calories.
A great start to meeting nutrient needs is to incorporate foods from all food groups, focusing on:
Lean meat, poultry, fish, or plant-based protein
Low-fat dairy foods
Colorful fruits and vegetables
Heart healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and nuts
It is also important to minimize those foods that are high in calories but provide few additional nutrients, such as:
High sugar foods
To maximize performance and recovery, timing your nutrition can help. Before exercise or strenuous activity, eat a carbohydrate-rich snack. Good choices include:
Handful of dried fruit, such as raisins
If your activity lasts more than an hour, you should consider snacks during exercise. Snack choices might depend on what type of exercise you're doing based on convenience and digestive system comfort.
A good goal is for 30-60g of carbohydrates for every hour you are exercising. Good choices include:
Nutrition is an important part of recovery to get back to training or simply not be stuck on the couch the next day. After exercise, you should focus on snacks that combine protein and carbohydrates. Good choices include:
Low-fat chocolate milk
Turkey Sandwich on whole grain bread
Whole grain toast with peanut butter
Lastly, do not forget about hydration. Hydration can be even more important for athletes and individuals as they age with sensation of thirst declining as well as decline in kidney function. Some good rules are:
Drink 16 oz of fluid 30 minutes before exercising
Drink 8 oz of fluid every 15 minutes of exercise. This is of most importance when temperatures are hot and humid.
If you have not been able to maintain hydration during exercise, drink 16-24oz of fluid for every pound of body weight that was lost during exercise.
Pillar III: Rest & Recovery
by Michelle Berger
Walk on the gym floor, take a look around and action instantly catches the eye: the strike of feet on the treadmill, pumping of iron with free weights, pushing and pulling on nautilus equipment; ACTION is everywhere!
Now, walk into a yin yoga class: the body is completely supported by bolsters, blocks and blankets. It appears the participants are taking the easy approach to fitness; after all, they aren’t even moving. Inaction is all we see!
One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities. -Bhagavad Gita 4:18
You see, the thing is, if we go to the gym, there is a result; yet, if we stay home there is also a result: both action and inaction have an outcome. They each have an appropriate place in our practice; both physically and mentally.
During active training, the body is in full exertion while the mind is in a heightened state of focus and determination. Muscles are engaged, the heart is pumping, respiration is intensified. We are pushing to the edge of our ability with the goal of transformation. Scientifically, during weight training, muscle fiber is being torn so it can rebuild stronger. But, if we tear it over and over again without giving the body the opportunity to repair we end up injured, fatigued, and seeing a lack of progress or results in desired improvement.
Now, let’s think back on that yin yoga class. Students use bolsters, blocks and blankets to fully support the body; transitioning through maybe 6-8 poses in a class. The muscles are able to relax and release from the body, the heart and respiration are able to take a slower pace. The mind can hopefully settle into a meditative state of peace.
Nowhere to go, literally nothing to do! Without being called to exert additional energy, the body can finally focus solely on the work of repair.
You may recall last month, when we spoke about Ayurveda: like increases like and opposites balance. The active state of exertion is necessary to build muscle, increase respiration and heart function; but, equally important is the inactive state which enables recovery of the muscles, heart, respiration and mind to pause, soften and regroup.
Following are some ways to incorporate recovery into your practice:
Yin or Restorative Yoga
Get to bed before 10 pm
Eat a nutrient fortifying meal
Limit or eliminate caffeine and sugar
Self or professional massage